Lopez points to past for keeping Giants in his future
Free-agent reliever cites Sabean's interest last season as 'big deal' in re-signing
SAN FRANCISCO -- Javier Lopez's three-year, $13 million deal with the Giants became official Tuesday. But the seeds for the left-hander's agreement were planted months ago.
Giants general manager Brian Sabean made an enduring impression upon Lopez during last season by reaffirming the organization's desire, on more than one occasion, to retain him and the club's other potential free agents -- not only beyond the Trade Deadline, but for years to come.
"I think that was a big deal. I really do," Lopez said on a conference call. "I've never had a GM do that before. Obviously, we know that it's a business and people are going to make the moves that need to be made. But when he let us stick around, it really spoke volumes to the fact that he felt this was too good a group to just go ahead and blow up, that we needed to keep together the pieces that we had and just [acquire complementary players] this offseason."
Unlike right fielder Hunter Pence and right-hander Tim Lincecum, whom the Giants retained before the free-agent signing period began, Lopez entered the open market and drew interest from as many as 10 teams. This wasn't surprising, since he recorded a career-best 1.83 ERA in 69 appearances last season and led the NL by allowing only 10.5 percent (6-of-57) of his inherited baserunners to score. The only free-agent lefty relievers who performed nearly as well as Lopez were J.P. Howell (2.03 ERA) and Scott Downs (2.49).
Among the teams wooing Lopez was Washington, which was essentially his "hometown" team after having been raised in Fairfax, Va. Lopez said that an "influx of family and friends" conveyed hopes that he would sign with the Nationals. But Lopez, who joined the Giants at the 2010 Trade Deadline, stayed true to his adopted baseball home.
"I want to finish up as a Giant and that was ultimately a better place for me at this time," he said.
To create room for Lopez on the 40-man roster, the Giants outrighted left-hander Jose Mijares to Triple-A Fresno. Mijares cleared waivers and has opted for free agency. Mijares finished 0-3 with a 4.22 ERA in 60 appearances for the Giants last season, posting an 8.40 ERA in his final 21 outings.